Antiques Glossary

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A

abattant
French term for ‘drop lid’ or ‘fall front’ in furniture.

acanthus design
A conventionalized representation of an acanthus leaf, used especially as a decoration for Corinthian column capitals.

achievement of arms
The distinctive heraldic bearings or shield of a person, family, corporation, or country; the correct term for coat of arms.

agate
A form of quartz mineral with a strongly banded composition in which each layer differs in colour and translucency. Used for making jewellery, cameos, and in decorative objets d’art.

alabaster
Generally translucent and white or grey in colour, alabaster is a form of the mineral gypsum which can be polished to a smooth and waxy finish. Often used in sculpture, decorative stone panelling, beads, and cabochons.

almirah
A free-standing cupboard or wardrobe, typically of Indian design.

amboyna
The decorative timber of a rapidly growing South-East Asian tree, used for cabinetmaking and veneers, with a curled and mottled grain.

amphora
A large, two-handled earthenware vessel with a narrow neck and usually an ovoid body, originally used in Greece for the storage of grain. Later adopted as a neoclassical decorative motif.

andiron
A metal stand, typically one of a pair, for supporting wood burning in a fireplace; also called fire-dog or chenet.

anthemion motif
An ornamental design of alternating motifs resembling clusters of narrow leaves or honeysuckle petals, used extensively in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

antique
A collectable object such as a piece of furniture or work of art that has a high value because of its age and quality. According to UK and US law, an antique must be at least 100 years old. The value of an antique depends upon its authenticity, beauty, age, rarity, and condition.

apothecary jars
Cylindrical or oval shaped covered jars either of glass or china, designed for the storage of medicinal herbs; also called pharmacy jars. 

applied decoration
Relief decoration, typically applied to the surface of a ceramic. Used by e.g. Wedgwood to adorn their jasper wares.

apron
A board placed at right angles to the underside of a shelf, chair seat, or table top.

arabesque
An ornamentation consisting of an interlacing design of foliage, usually designed for a vertical panel, with the sides resembling each other.

arcading
A carved architectural ornament suggesting arches; often used on chair-backs and applied on panels.

armoire
A movable wardrobe, usually with one or two doors, originating in late 16th-century France.

armorial porcelain
Any porcelain decorated with heraldic motifs, most specifically 18th-century porcelain produced in China for European families and bearing the family's achievement of arms.

Art Deco
The predominant decorative art style of the 1920s and 1930s, characterized by precise and boldly delineated geometric shapes and strong colours and used most notably in household objects and in architecture.

Art Nouveau
A style of decorative art, architecture, and design prominent in western Europe and the USA from about 1890 till the First World War, characterized by intricate linear designs and flowing curves based on natural forms.

ash
A highly figured hardwood having a variety of shades from a grayish hue to deep brown. Used chiefly for structural aspects of furniture.

assaying
The process in which a piece is examined to determine the amount of precious metal contained. This examination is conducted at a legally appointed assayer’s office to insure compliance with legal standards and the piece is officially stamped or hallmarked upon completion.

aubusson
Any flat, tapestry-woven coverings named for the French manufactory in Aubusson, established in 1664.


B

ball-and-claw foot
A furniture foot cut to imitate a talon or claw grasping a ball. Of Chinese origin, the motif was greatly used in English 18th-century furniture.

baluster
A short decorative pillar forming part of a series supporting a staircase rail, coping, or chair splat.

banding
A strip of veneer used as a border for table tops, drawer fronts, etc.

baroque
A highly ornate and extravagant style of architecture, art, and decoration which originated in Italy during the late 16th century.

Beauvais
A type of tapestry originally made at Beauvais, France, typically depicting flowers, fruit, and pastoral landscapes.

beech
A hardwood with pale, fine-grained timber.

bell turning
A type of turning shaped like a conventional bell, used for furniture legs and pedestal supports, particularly in the William and Mary style.

belle époque
A curvilinear high style of the later part of the 19th century and the years preceding the First World War, which combined Victorian eclecticism and Art Nouveau forms.

Belleek
A light, fragile feldspathic porcelain cast in moulds finished with a lustrous pearly glaze. Invented c. 1860 by William Goss of Stoke and improved by William Bromley at the Irish factory of David McBirney & Co. in County, Fermanaugh. Belleek was also produced at many American factories between 1882 and 1900 and is known as Lotusware by Knowles of East Liverpool.

bevel
A slope from the horizontal or vertical in carpentry and stonework; a sloping surface or edge.

Biedermeier
Denoting or relating to a style of furniture and interior decoration current in Germany and Austria in the period 1815–48, characterized by restraint, conventionality, and utilitarianism, and featuring simple marquetry patterns with Classically inspired pressed-brass ornaments and painted motifs.

birch
A hard, pale, fine-grained timber used in furniture.

bird’s-eye
A small geometric pattern woven with a dot in the centre, typically used in suiting and lining fabrics. In timber it is a decorative wood feature most common in maple.

bisque (biscuit)
Unglazed porcelain or pottery commonly used for neoclassical reliefs and statuettes since the mid-18th century.

black basalt
An unglazed line-grained black stoneware perfected by Wedgwood c.176; decorated with relief, gilding or enamelling.

boiserie
Richly carved woodwork used as panels, especially in 17th- and 18th-century French decoration.

bombe
A French term, literally meaning ‘blown out’, describing a large outward swelling curve on the front of a piece of furniture.

bonheur-du-jour
A small, light lady’s writing desk first made in France in the 1760s, with a central drawer in front, tiered shelves, and cupboards in back.

bonnet top
In cabinet work, a top with a broken pediment or arch, or a curved or scroll top with a central finial motif in the shape of a flame, urn, etc.

boulle
Decorative type of marquetry in which tortoiseshell, brass, copper and tin were cut and pierced into elaborate floral or curving designs.

bracket clock
A style of antique portable table clock made in the 17th and 18th centuries; similar types are known as mantel clocks or shelf clocks; see also table clock.

bracket foot
A stunted cabriole form, with a straight corner edge and curved inner edges.

breakfront
A cabinet piece the front of which has one or more projecting portions.

Britannia silver
A silver alloy introduced after the English Civil War to prevent the melting down of sterling coins to create silver objects. Britannia silver was mandatory in England from 1697 to 1720 and is composed of 958 parts silver in 1000. All Britiannia silver is hallmarked with the figure of Britannia.

brocade
A jacquard weave fabric with a low-relief pattern, usually on a satin background; it has an embroidered effect.

bronze doré
Ornamental coating of gold leaf or gold dust; also known as gliding.

bun foot
A furniture support that resembles a slightly flattened ball or sphere; commonly used in William and Mary case furniture.

bureau
A desk popular in late 17th-century England and France distinguished by its sloping fall-front. The flap is hinged at the base and rests on lopers when open, folding up at an angle when closed. In America, used to describe a bedroom chest-of-drawers.

burl
A rounded knotty growth on a tree (often walnut), used especially in handcrafted objects and veneers.


C

cabochon
A smooth round or oval raised decoration, the term used to describe the simplest style of a gemstone; oval, round or teardrop shaped with a rounded top and flat or concave base. This style is used for many opaque stones.

cabriole leg
A furniture leg with a double curve. A stylized form of animal hind leg with elongated ‘S’ shape. Popular in late 18th-century and 19th-century Europe.

cache pot
A French term used to identify a decorative china or metal jardinière designed to hold a small potted plant or cut flowers.

calamander
See coromandel.

camelback
A back with a hump-shaped curve on a sofa or other piece of furniture.

cameo
A small-scale, shallow relief decoration of carved stone, shell, glass or ceramic typically set against a contrasting coloured background developed during the Hellenistic period. Cameos are used predominately in jewellery decoration.

cameo glass
Glass decoration utilizing two layers of glass in which the exterior layer, usually white, is cut away from the underlying coloured layer creating a contrasting relief design.

candelabra
Two or more branched candlesticks or lamp stand; the singular is candelabrum.

caning
A woody stem of rattan or sugar cane used for wickerwork, seats of chairs, summer furniture, etc.

canopy
A draped covering of fabric suspended over a piece of furniture and supported by four posts.

canterbury
An ornamental stand having compartments and divisions for papers, portfolios, envelopes, magazines, etc.

capital
The decorative crowning motif atop a column or pilaster shaft, usually composed of mouldings and ornament.

capstan table
See drum table.

cartouche
Typically oval in shape, a cartouche is an ornamental motif with curved or scrolling edges. Often the cartouche contains a coat-of-arms or an inscription.

caryatid
A decorative upright female figure used in the place of a column.

case furniture
Any furniture that provides storage space.

cassolette
A vase, usually gilt-bronze, with a pierced lid for burning perfume pastilles made in France from the 17th century onwards. Some examples often have a cover which reverses to form a candlestick.

casters
A small container first used late 18th century for sprinkling muffins and such with cinnamon, sugar, pepper, salt, or mustard. Examples are usually of silver, sometimes with a porcelain body.

celadon
A semi-translucent, usually green glaze, used on Chinese stoneware.

cellaret
A portable chest, case, or cabinet for storing bottles, decanters, and glasses, dating from the 18th century. Traditionally manufactured out of wood, usually mahogany, they have seen a decline in usage and are now normally regarded as antique pieces. They first appeared in the late 18th century, and lost popularity after the mid-19th century. See also wine cooler.

chaise lounge
A long chair designed for relaxing, which can support both legs. and semi-reclining, usually upholstered. Adapted from the French 18th-century style, it was often made in two parts: a deep bergere and large stool, which when put together, formed a daytime sofa. See also duchesse brisée, méridienne, and récamier.

champlevé
A type of enamelling in which powdered glass is placed in the hollowed-out areas of a piece before firing.

chasing
A technique used to decorate metal objects, especially silver, which involves the use of shaped punches and a hammer to model the piece. See also embossing and repoussé.

chenet
The French word for andiron.

chest-on-chest
A chest of drawers consisting of two parts, one mounted on top of the other. Similar to a tallboy.

chesterfield
An overstuffed sofa of large size with a continuous straight back and upholstered ends.

cheval mirror
A large full-length mirror, usually standing on the floor.

chiffonier
The chiffonier is a sideboard, or cabinet, introduced during the late 18th century with open shelves for books and a cupboard or drawers below.

chocolate cup
A large two-handle cup with a cover, and a saucer.

cloisonné
A type of enamelling in which compartments separated by thin strips of metal are filled with powdered glass prior to firing.

coat of arms
See achievement of arms.

cockfighting chair
A chair for reading and writing or viewing sports events used by straddling the seat and facing the back. The back has a small shelf. Popular from the Queen Anne to Chippendale periods.

commode
French form of low chest-of-drawers , originally intended for the drawing room, dating from the mid-17th century and very popular in the 18th century. Became a term for bedroom cupboards in the 19th century.

console table
A small table that can be attached to the wall in the back having two legs in front or can be free-standing against the wall.

cornice
The projeting, crowning portion of a classical entablature; also the horizontal moulding at the top of case pieces, such as bookcases and cabinets.

cornucopia
A classical motif in the shape of a goat’s horn out of which spills fruit, vegetables, and flowers. A symbol of fertility and abundance popular during the Baroque and Rococo periods. Also called horn-of-plenty.

coromandel
A fine-grained, greyish-brown ebony streaked with black, used in fine furniture, cases, musical instruments, walking sticks, etc.; also called calamander.

crackle
A network of cracks in the glaze of some Chinese porcelain, deliberately introduced as decoration.

crazing
Tiny surface cracks in the glaze of porcelain or on a painting.

creamware
A lead-glazed and cream coloured earthenware with a light body consisting of pale clay; creamware was perfected in Staffordshire in the mid-18th century.

credenza
Sideboard with doors surmounted by drawers, used for storage.

crest
Any device above the shield and helmet in an achievement of arms, often used in engraving or armorial china.

crossbanding
Thin strips of decorative cross-grained veneer.

crotch veneer
A thin sheet of wood cut from the intersection of the main trunk and branch of a tree, showing an irregular effect of graining.

crown moulding
The topmost moulding on a door, window, or cabinet.

cruet
A small bottle used for oils, vinegars and other condiments.

crystal
Fine, high-quality glass containing lead oxide invented in 17th-century England. The lead oxide is attributed to providing the glass with extraordinary qualities of brilliance, sound and a suitable texture for cutting or engraving.

cut glass
Glass ornamented with patterns cut into it by grinding and polishing; the technique of faceting was perfected in the 18th century in England.


D

damask
A linen, cotton, rayon, or silk fabric with a reversible jacquard weave and a lustrous surface.

davenport desk
In Britain, an ornamental writing desk with drawers and a sloping surface for writing; in the USA, a large heavily upholstered sofa.

delft(ware)
A type of earthenware made in the Netherlands, typically involving a blue underglaze decoration depicting town and landscape scenes on a white background.

ding ware
One of the earliest Chinese porcelain wares, dating from the Song dynasty (960–1279). Dishes are the most common, and are usually excavated from burial grounds. Many forgeries and reproductions have been produced. See also yingqing.

Directoire
A period of design in France after the Revolution, from 1795 to 1804, characterized by Classical motifs.

dog of Fo
A stylised Chinese Buddhist lion (Fo means Buddha), in Chinese mythology: one of a facing pair of temple guardians; they are used as figures in painted decoration on porcelain. The Japanese version is called shishi.

dovetail
A term in carpentry used to designate a method of joinery. A tenon or tongue that flares outward in the shape of a dove’s tail that interlocks with alternating similar grooves or projections from another piece of wood. Frequently used to join corners of drawers and cabinets.

dowel
A headless pin of wood or metal that fits into a corresponding hole on another piece, forming a joint that fastens them together.

drop-front
A top or front of a desk hinged at the bottom that drops to a horizontal position, forming a surface for writing. Also called a drop-lid.

drop-leaf
A leaf, hinged to the side of a table, which drops at the side when not in use.

drum table
A round table with a deep apron resembling a drum, made from the late 18th century through the 19th century, with drawers set into a deep apron or frieze resembling a drum, and supported on a central pedestal or tripod. The capstan table is a shallower variant with an expandable top used for dining; other variants are the library table or writing table. Rent tables, with four drawers for each quarter, or octagonal sides with seven weekday drawers, were used for rent collection until the early 19th century.

duchesse brisée
A type of chaise longue that is divided in two parts (a chair and long footstool) or three (two chairs with a stool between them).

dumbwaiter table
A serving table, consisting of three or four circular trays on a central shaft with the smallest being at the top and the largest at the bottom. Also known as a tier table.


E

Early American
An American furniture period, during the 17th and early 18th centuries, with simple designs largely copied from English Jacobean and William and Mary styles.

earthenware
All pottery except for stoneware.

ébéniste
French term meaning ‘cabinet maker’ designating a high-grade craftsman specializing in the art of veneering.

ebonizing
The staining of wood to black to resemble ebony, a common decorative technique used in Louis XIV furniture.

ebony
A heavy blackish or very dark brown timber from a mainly tropical tree, or more generally from one of several trees of other families that produce timber similar to ebony.

egg-and-dart
A decorative motif of classical origin consisting of ovoid or egg shapes alternating with dart-like points.

elm
A uniform and fine textured wood with a light brownish-red colour tinged with darker brown ring marks.

embossing
A process of hammering, stamping, or moulding a material (usually leather or paper) so that a design protrudes beyond the surface. See also repoussé and chasing.

Empire
Denoting a style of furniture, decoration, or dress fashionable chiefly during the First Empire in France. The decorative style was neoclassical but marked by an interest in Egyptian and other ancient motifs.

enamel
A painted porcelain decoration in vitreous colours that fuse to the glazed surface during low temperature kiln firing. Enamel sinks deeply into soft-paste porcelain but is not absorbed by hard-paste porcelain.

engraving
The process of cutting or carving lines into a surface.

epergne
An ornamental centrepiece for a dining table, typically used for holding fruit or flowers.

escutcheon
A metal plate fitted around a keyhole for protection and decoration or to which a handle or knob can be attached.

espagnolette
A decorative bronze bust of female form, typically found on French rococo furnishings.

etagere
A piece of free-standing furniture with open shelves for displaying ornaments; in French étagère.

etching
A print from a copper plate upon which a drawing or design has been made by a needle-like tool.


F

Fabergé
A jewellery firm founded in Saint Petersburg by Gustav Faberge (1814–1893), father of Peter Carl Fabergé (1846–1920), creator of the famous Fabergé eggs.

faience
Glazed ceramic ware, in particular richly decorated tin-glazed earthenware of the type that includes delftware and maiolica. Small flowers, cornucopias and arrows are typical motifs done in blue, green, and yellow on a cream white background.

Fairyland Lustre
Term used to describe the designs and glazing techniques introduced into the Wedgwood firm by Daisy Maekig-Jones between 1915 and 1931, typically featuring fairies and pixies in forest settings.

fauteuil
French open-armed chair with upholstered seat and back.

Federal
An architectural style in North America between c. 1780 and 1830, and particularly 1785 to 1815. The style broadly corresponds to the middle-class classicism of Biedermeier style in the German-speaking lands, Regency style in Britain, and Empire style in France. The most common ornament of this period was the bald eagle.

feldspathic glaze
The glaze on hard-paste porcelain which fuses into a type of natural glass at a very high temperature.

filigree (metal)
Decorative technique using open or backed wire work. The fine wire is typically gold or silver and is worked into an intricate design.

finial
An ornament used as a terminating motif, usually in the form of a ball, flame, flower, acorn, pineapple, or vase; typically it can serve as a handle or grip.

fire-dog
An andiron (q.v.)

fleur-de-lis
A conventionalized iris flower used by the former kings of France as a decorative motif symbolizing royalty.

fluting
Decoration formed by making parallel, concave grooves. In classical architecture they are commonly seen on column shafts and run in a vertical direction.

French ivory
An artificial plastic produced to imitate ivory, first produced by the Xylonite Company in 1866. Other names include Celluloid, Ivoride, Ivorine, Ivorite, and Pyralin.

French polish
A durable finish of high gloss created by applying successive layers of shellac varnish to wood. The degree of shine may vary from a subtle gloss to a mirrored gloss. The name is used because it is believed to have been first used in France in the late 1600s.

French provincial
A domestic furniture style created by craftsmen in the French provinces, which in form tended to be simpler versions of the Louis XV style.

fresco
A painting done on plaster before it dries, as in mural decoration.

fretwork
Ornamental design in wood, typically openwork, done with a fretsaw.


G

gadroon
Applied series of small vertical, diagonal or twisted flutes commonly used as a border decoration on silverware.

gallery
The ornamental metal or wood railing around the edge of a table or desk.

Georgian
A period of design in English furniture from 1714 to 1795. Among the best known designers were Hepplewhite, Sheraton, Chippendale, and the Adams Brothers.

gesso
A prepared plaster of chalk and white lead, which can be cast to make repeating ornamental forms in relief for application to wood panels, plaster surfaces, etc.

gilding
The decoration of an object with a thin layer of gold, gold leaf, or gold foil.

girandole
A branched support for candles or other lights, which either stands on a surface like a candelabrum, or projects from a wall like a sconce, often with a mirrored backplate to reflect the candlelight.

glaze
A shiny, glassy surface coating that also seals porous bodies of porcelain and pottery. Glazes can be translucent, opaque or coloured. Lead and salt glazes are applied to pottery and soft-paste porcelain, feldspathic glazes to hard-paste porcelain.

gongbi
In Chinese decoration, work that is elaborate and meticulous, with little expression; in Chinese art it refers to a painting that is descriptive rather than interpretive; the opposite of xieyi.

greenstone
A greenish igneous rock containing feldspar and hornblende.

gueridon
A small table or pedestal with a circular top dating from the 17th and early 18th centuries. Originally used to support candelabras.


H

hallmark
A mark or stamp applied to a precious metal by a legally appointed official denoting quality of a piece after assaying, examining to determine the amount of precious metal contained in a piece.

hard-paste porcelain
Hard-paste (or true) porcelain is compounded of china clay (kaolin) and powdered felspathic rock (china stone or petuntse). Once glazed, it fuses into a form of natural glass under intense heat.

hassock
A tightly stuffed, upholstered cushion used as a footstool or seat.

highboy
A tall chest of drawers supported by cabriole legs and usually crowned with cornice mouldings or a pediment.


I

imari
Heavily decorated Japanese porcelain with overglaze enamels and gilding. Popular in the first half of the 18th century.

incised
A pattern or carving produced by cutting into a stone, wood, or other hard surface. The reverse of relief carving.

inlay
Form of decoration used in furniture and ceramics, inlay is when part of a surface is removed and replaced with a contrasting material.

intaglio
A decorative technique in which a design is cut into a hard surface. Intaglio is also the Italian word for carving.

ironstone china
A kind of dense, hard opaque stoneware, created to imitate porcelain, first made in Staffordshire in 1813.


J

Jacobean
A period in English design from 1603 to 1688, characterized by practicality but with a tendency towards Baroque. Early American furniture is based on this period. Box-like and architectural in style.

jacquard
Type of weave done on a loom invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1801, making possible a variety of intricate patterns. Demasks, brocades, and tapestries can be woven on jacquard looms.

japanning
Term used for European techniques to imitate designs from the Far East.

jardinière
A plant or flower container.

jasper dip and jasperware
A fine-grained unglazed stoneware perfected by Wedgwood in 1775, usually light or dark blue, lilac, sage green, and black. From about 1780 on the colouring could be on the outer surface only and is known as jasper dip.

joinery
The craft of assembling woodwork by means of mortise and tenon, dovetail, tongue and groove, dowels, etc.

jubako
A Japanese picnic box.


K

kalaga
Embroidered Burmese tapestries. Kalagas were orginally developed in Burma (now Myanmar) at the Mandalay court (1850-1885) to serve as wall hangings, curtains, room partitions, coffin covers and theatre backdrops. These traditional Burmese tapestries depicted scenes from various legends as well as events of religious importance.

kaolin
A fine white granite clay used in hard-paste porcelain.

kingwood
A Brazilian wood, also called violet wood from the colour of its markings, used in fine cabinetwork. Given its name because it was preferred by the kings of France in the 18th century.

kneehole desk
Desk with a solid lower portion but with an opening for the knees of a person seated at it.


L

lacquer
A liquid made of shellac dissolved in alcohol, or of synthetic substances, that dries to form a hard protective coating for wood, metal, etc.

Lalique
A luminous, transparent glass introduced in the early 20th century by Rene Lalique of France. Most of his designs have a sculptural quality achieved by pressing and alternating a dull with a polished surface.

laminated wood
Wood pieces made up of thin layers, frequently bent and moulded to create curved shapes.

lapis lazuli
A bright blue metamorphic rock consisting largely of lazurite, used for decoration and in jewellery.

lavabo
French term meaning ‘wash bowl’.

loper
One of two runners coming forward to support a hinged leaf, such as the slant front of a desk.

Louis XIV
Reigned in France 1643 to 1715. Known as the Sun King, he influenced the baroque style in furniture during the earlier part of the reign which later developed into the régence style.

Louis XV
Reigned in France 1715 to 1774. The style of furniture was essentially rococo with soft, flowing lines, shell and flower ornamentation, rich upholstery, inlaying and painted furniture.

Louis XVI
Reigned in France 1774 to 1793. Characteristics of this style were rectangular lines, architectural ornamentation, classic symmetry, marquetry, and the predominant use of mahogany.

lowboy
A chest of drawers mounted on short legs, usually about three feet high.

lustre
A metallic, sometimes iridescent, form of decoration.

lyre back
Design commonly used by Duncan Phyfe on the backs of chairs. A representation of lyre figures carved from wood with brass wires used to represent the strings.


M

mahogany
Straight grained hard wood with silky texture, ranging in colour from salmon-pink through bright red and when newly cut, changes to a golden or deep brown red.

maiolica
A kind of fine earthenware with coloured decoration on an opaque white tin glaze, originating in Italy during the Renaissance.

majolica
A kind of earthenware made in imitation of Italian maiolica, especially in England during the 19th century, featuring coloured lead glazes.

malachite
An opaque bright-green mineral with very pronounced and often concentric banding. Its surface is hard enough to be polished and malachite has been used for beads, cabochons, decorative items and pietre dure.

mantel
The projecting shelf surmounting a fireplace.

maple
A light reddish-brown wood with uniform texture and straight grain.

marquetry
Shaped pieces of wood or other material (e.g. tortoiseshell, ivory, mother-of-pearl, and metals) used as a veneer on furniture to create a flush decorative pattern. Geometric patterns are parquetry.

matchsafe
See vesta case.

medallion
A circular or oval frame having within it an ornamental motif.

Meissen
Manufacturers of true porcelain whose wares remain unrivaled in terms of innovation and beauty. Meissen is the name of the small town in which alchemist Johann Friedrich Bottger was imprisoned by the King of Saxony where he remained for several years until 1710 when he finally discovered a formula for true (hard-paste) porcelain.

méridienne
A chaise lounge used as a day-bed, with a high head-rest and lower foot-rest joined by an asymmetrical sloping piece.

millefiori
A type of ornamental glass in which a number of glass rods of different sizes and colours are fused together and cut into sections which form various patterns (often rosette or floral designs), and typically embedded in colourless transparent glass to make items such as paperweights.

minaudière
A small, decorative handbag without handles or a strap, first created by Van Cleef & Arpels.

mosaic
A decorative technique in which square or rectangular pieces of stone, glass, ceramic tile (also known as tesserae) are set in mortar in and artistic motif.

mother-of-pearl
A smooth shining iridescent substance forming the inner layer of the shell of some molluscs, especially oysters and abalones, used as a decorative inlay in furniture and objets d’art.

mount
An ornamental attachment typically of gilt-bronze on high-quality porcelain.

muffineer
A round (usually metal) dish with a domed cover, used for serving hot muffins.


N

nécessaire
A small ornamental case for pencils, scissors, tweezers, and other small items, originally for use while travelling, and often constructed of lavish materials.

neoclassical
Refers to the second revival of classic design for interior decoration in the 18th century. An aesthetic and artistic style originated in Rome in the mid-18th century, which combined a reaction against the late baroque and rococo with a new interest in antiquity. In music, the term refers to a return by composers of the early 20th century to the forms and styles of the 17th and 18th centuries, as a reaction against 19th-century romanticism.

nephrite
A hard, pale green or white mineral, which is one of the forms of jade; often used by Fabergé, it is a silicate of calcium and magnesium.

nesting tables
Group of tables, usually three, constructed so that one fits under the other.

niello
A black compound of sulphur with silver, lead, or copper, used for filling in engraved designs in silver or other metals.

nien hao (in Pinyin niánhào)
The era name In Chinese porcelain: the regnal year, title, or reign period used when traditionally numbering years in an emperor's reign and naming certain Chinese rulers. See reign marks.


O

oak
An open-pore wood that varies from light tan to deep leathery brown with black spots, depending on variations in climate and soil.

obelisk
A tapering stone pillar, typically having a square or rectangular cross section, set up as a monument or landmark; the same form on a smaller scale was used as a decorative ornament in especially in Directoire and Empire interiors.

occasional table
A generic term for a small decorative table such as an end table, coffee table, or side table.

ormolu
Derived from French for ground gold, the term refers to gilded bronze or brass mounts.

ottoman
A low, upholstered seat without backs or arms. Sometimes used as a foot-rest.

overglaze
Decoration applied to a piece of pottery or porcelain after it has been glazed.

oysterwood
Oyster veneering, a technique indicative of the William and Mary period, was achieved by transversely cutting or slicing the smaller branches of certain trees such as walnut or olive. These small, rounded veneers, with their circular striations, resembled the inside of an oyster, and when pieced together, produced a most dramatic and impressive decorative effect.


P

pad foot
Club foot resting on an integral disc.

pagoda
In India and East Asia, a Hindu or Buddhist temple, typically in the form of a many-tiered tower.

palette
The group of colours used in a particular style or by a particluar factory or decorator.

parquetry
An inlay of geometric design, used especially for decorative flooring; see also marquetry.

partner’s desk
Desk large enough to seat two people facing each other which working drawers on both sides.

paste
The composite material from which porcelain is made; or a hard vitreous composition (e.g. glass) used in making imitation gems.

pastiglia
A technique used to decorate small gilded items made from a white powder derived from lead. Often used during the Italian Renaissance for decorating tiny caskets, it was much too fragile for use on larger items.

pastille burners
Popular from 1820-1850, pastille burners were containers often in the form of cottages, churches, or summer houses, with detachable lids for burning cassolette perfumes (incense).

pâte-sur-pâte
A method of porcelain decoration in which a relief design is created on an unfired, unglazed body by applying layers of white slip with a brush.

patina
In bronze, gold, silver, or similar metals, a green or brown sheen or film on the surface produced by oxidation over a long period; in wood, a gloss or sheen produced by age and polishing; both effects can be approximated artificially.

pedestal
The base or support on which a statue, obelisk, or column is mounted, often treated with mouldings at the top and a base block on the bottom; each of the two supports of a kneehole desk or table; see also plinth.

pediment
A broad triangular or curved space above a portico, doorway, window or cabinet. Can have segmental, scroll, and broken forms.

Pembroke table
A small table with fixed legs and a drop-leaf on each side.

pewter
A grey alloy of tin with copper and antimony (formerly, tin and lead); it has a dull grey appearance and is used for the making of tableware and ornaments; originally intended as a substitute for silver, its value diminished in the 17th century with the wider use of chinaware.

pie-crust table
A small, round table having a top with its edge carved or molded in scallops. Common in 18th-century English furniture.

pier glass
A tall, narrow framed mirror.

pierced work
Decorative technique used on precious and non-precious metals, created by perforating the metal sheet. Some extraordinary pierced work was achieved by the noteworthy Goldsmiths and Silversmiths of London during the 18th and 19th centuries.

pietre dure
Sculptural or ornamental use of hard stones, particularly in furniture, cameos, vases, and decorative panels.

pilaster
Architectural term for a flattened column attached to a facade for decoration rather than structural support.

pine
Wood that is uniform in texture but sometimes strongly marked with annual rings. It dries easily and does not shrink or swell greatly with changes in moisture content.

plinth
A heavy base supporting a statue or vase, usually without mouldings; the lower square slab at the base of a column; see also pedestal.

polychrome
A decoration using three or more colours.

pontil mark
In glass manufacture, an irregular or ring-shaped scar on the base when removed from the pontil (or punty) used during glass-blowing; the term is also used for a mark impressed in the base of the pressed glass where the pontil scar would have been had it been free blown.

poplar
An even-textured and straight-grained wood used as timber as well as cross-banding and veneers.

porcelain
A translucent white ceramic body made from kaolin and petuntse (hard paste) or another ingredient that induces translucency (soft paste) when fired at high temperatures.

porphyry
A variety of igneous rock consisting of large-grained crystals (e.g. feldspar or quartz), dispersed in a fine-grained feldspathic matrix or groundmass. The reddish-purple rock was prized for constructing monuments and building in Imperial Rome and later, and during the reign of Louis XIV for table tops.

pottery
Generic term for all ceramic wares except for porcelain.

provincial
Peasant-like and naïve in style.

prunt
A blob of glass applied to a glass object primarily as decoration, but also to afford a firm grip in the absence of a handle.

putto
A representation of a naked child, especially a cherub or a cupid in Renaissance art (pl. putti), or as a decorative motif.


Q

Qing dynasty
The last of the Chinese dynasties, sometimes spelt Ch'ing, which replaced the Ming dynasty in 1644, although it was not consolidated until the 1680s during the reign of the Emperor Kangxi (1662-1722). It ended in 1912. During the Qing dynasty, famille-verte and famille-rose palettes were established, porcelain production reached its height of delicacy and Ming blue and white wares were copied. Cloisonné enamels, bronzes, textiles, and furniture were all exports via the port of Canton. See also reign marks.

qingbai
See yingqing.

quartz
A hard white or colourless mineral consisting of silicon dioxide often coloured by impurities (as in amethyst, citrine, and cairngorm), and used in hardstone carvings.

Queen Anne
A period in English furniture design from 1702-1714, characterized by adaptation of Baroque and the extensive use of cabriole legs and walnut woods.

Queen’s Ware
Cream-coloured earthenware improved and marketed by Josiah Wedgwood from 1765. It was named Queen’s ware in honour of Queen Charlotte, wife of George III.


R

raku
A low-fired porous-bodied Japanese pottery coated with a thick lead glaze, closely associated with the tea ceremony.

récamier
A type of chaise lounge with two raised ends and no sides, sometimes associated with French Empire (neo-classical) style.

refectory table
A sturdy elongated table originally found in monasteries, popular from the 15th to 17th centuries, usually made of oak and constructed with sturdy legs and stretchers, and common as kitchen and farmhouse furniture until the 19th century.

Régence French
A transitional period in French furniture design covering the regency of Philippe d'Orléans (1715-28), between Louis XIV and the Rococo style developed by Louis XV, and parallel with Britain’s early Georgian period. Characteristics are graceful curves, cabriole legs, and natural rather than mythological decoration.

Regency English
A period of austere neoclassicism influenced by the French Empire, 1810-1820.

reign marks
Marks in seal or script form on Chinese porcelain, derived from the emperor’s reign name (see nien hao) and giving the name of the emperor and usually the dynasty. Gradually, it became routine to mark a piece not with the current ruler's name, but with that of an earlier emperor. As a result, 'imitations' far outnumber genuine reign marks.

relief
Any carved, moulded, or stamped decoration that protrudes from the surface.

Renaissance
The revival of interest in classical design that marked the end of the Middle Ages, starting in Italy in the 14th century and spreading throughout Europe till the 17th century. Furniture was typically rich in style, with inlays of ivory, gold, stone, or marble, and often decorated with the acanthus leaf, egg-and-dart, animal forms, and pilasters. Cassoni (marriage chests) became popular, as did sumptuous chairs.

rent table
See drum table.

repoussé
A metalworking technique in which a malleable metal is decorated or shaped by hammering or punching from the back to create a design. Embossing is the same technique on paper or leather. See also chasing.

Restauration style
See style Restauration.

Restoration style
Furniture style linked with the reign of Charles II between the time of his restoration to the British throne in 1660 till his death in 1685.

rhinestone
An imitation diamond, used in cheap jewellery and to decorate clothes; any glass paste

rice-grain
A decoration used on Oriental porcelain from the 12th century, but particularly found in 18th century and modem Chinese wares. The effect of see-through 'grains' is created by making holes in the body of the piece, which is then thinned down before glazing and firing, during which the glaze floods the holes to create a translucent effect.

rock crystal
Transparent quartz, typically in the form of colourless hexagonal crystals, which when cut and polished create a reflective effect more brilliant than manmade crystal or glass.

rococo
Denoting furniture or architecture prevalent in 18th-century continental Europe, characterized by an elaborately ornamental and often asymmetrical late baroque style of decoration.

römer
A wide-bowled, green-tinted drinking glass popular in the Rhineland, with a thick hollow stem studded with prunts, and coiled foot. It was developed in the late 15th century, but was widely copied throughout Europe and remained popular to the early 19th century. It was the glass from which the British rummer eventually evolved.

rosemaling
The art, originating in Norway, of painting wooden furniture and objects with flower motifs.

rosewood
Prized for its exotic and beautifully figured appearance, rosewood was a favourite among upscale cabinet makers of the 18th and 19th centuries. Unlike more common woods, rosewood is exceptionally dense, rich in colour and very receptive to a high polish.

Rosso Antico
The name for Wedgwood’s red stoneware.


S

salon set
A complete set of matched furniture for a specific room. Also called a suite.

salt
A general term for any container used for table salt, including salt cellars (with a shallow, open bowl) and salt casters (shaped like a small sugar caster). Salt cellars are often gilded or have a glass liner to prevent corrosion by damp salt.

samovar
An urn with a spigot at its base used especially in Russia to boil water for tea.

sampler
A piece of embroidery worked in various stitches as a specimen of skill, typically containing the alphabet and some mottoes. By the 18th century most samplers were sewn by children, and incorporated letters, numbers, a short poem or motto, the name and age of the child, and the date.

sancai
A Chinese term meaning ‘three colour’, used to describe an effect created on ceramics by using three mineral colours in a glaze, usually yellow, green and brown (sometimes called ‘egg-and-spinach’).

sandblasting
A process used for creating matt surface finishes on glass, invented in the USA in 1870, where a design area is masked off and the object is subjected to a high-pressure jet of sand or powdered iron to leave the exposed area with a rough, greyish finish.

sarcophagus
A rectangular, coffin-shaped box tapering to a smaller size at the bottom. Can be used as a cellaret or tea caddy.

satinwood
A glossy yellowish timber from a tropical tree, valued for cabinetmaking; it became increasingly popular in Britain during the 1770s, replacing mahogany as the wood of choice for smaller pieces of furniture. Satinwood was used as a veneer throughout the late 18th and 19th centuries.

satsuma
The western name for type of Japanese earthenware exported throughout and since the Meiji period (1868-1912). It is named after the Satsuma provinces, but was made in many parts of Japan, most notably in Kyoto. Satsuma ware is a fine-grained, cream-coloured pottery covered in a clear to yellowy glaze usually with a very fine crackle. The decoration, sometimes done at a second workshop, varies from mass-produced broad designs to exquisite miniature scenes finely enamelled and gilded, typically for export. Some of the best pieces were made around 1900.

scallop shell
A semi-circular shell with ridges radiating from a point at the bottom. This ornamental motif was common in furniture design during the Queen Anne and Georgian periods in England and America. It was also extensively used in the early Spanish Renaissance.

sconce
A bracketed wall-light comprising a decorative backplate and candleholders, fashionable from the late 17th century. Rococo versions are often called girandoles.

screws
Metal screws with tapering, threaded bodies and slotted heads were first used during the early decades of the 18th century. Early threading was hand-filed; lathe-turned screws date from the second half of the 18th century, and sharp-pointed, machine-made screws from the mid-19th century.

scrimshaw
A folk art dating from the 17th century in which whale teeth, whale bones and walrus tusks are engraved or lightly carved with a picture or design.

scroll pediment
Broken pediment with each half shaped in the form of a reverse curve, and ending in an ornamental scroll. Usually a finial is placed in the centre between the two halves.

secretaire
A small writing desk; an escritoire; also, a chest of drawers with a desk area concealed behind a false drawer-front. Instead of the angled fold-down bureau, the top 'drawer' pulls out and the front drops down to form a writing surface.

secretary desk
An 18th-century tall piece of furniture with drawers at the bottom, a bookcase on top, and a desk with a drop-llid in the centre.

semiprecious stone
A nontechnical term used to refer to all gemstones except precious stones. It does not apply to synthetic gemstones, glass, and paste or to organic substances used in jewellery, such as amber, coral, jet, and tortoiseshell.

serpentine curve
Winding and curving design often used in furniture legs or on the front of cabinets or desk.

Seto
A Japanese ceramics centre, best known for its 19th century wares decorated with paintings of birds, fish, and landscapes, mostly in underglaze blue.

settee
A long upholstered seat for more than one person, typically with a back and arms.

settle
A long wooden bench with arms and a panelled back, designed to seat two or more people.

Sèvres
A type of fine porcelain characterized by elaborate decoration on backgrounds of intense colour, made at Sèvres in the suburbs of Paris, especially around 1760-1815.

sgraffito
A form of decoration made by scratching through a surface to reveal a lower layer of a contrasting colour, typically done in plaster or stucco on walls, or in slip on ceramics before firing; the plural is sgraffiti.

shagreen
A leather created from various species of sharks, rays and dogfish, particularly the stingray. This nodule-laden leather was commonly used during the 18th and 19th centuries to add decorative features to items such as jewellery boxes, needle cases, sword handles and opera glasses.

shield back
A chair back fashioned in the shape of a shield.

shishi
Japanese name for the dog of Fo (q.v.).

sideboard
A long, large piece of dining-room furniture with a flat top, and sometimes a superstructure for displaying china and glass. The body is a storage unit, compoased of drawers, sometimes flanked on each side by cabinets with doors.

slipware
A type of pottery in which slip (an aqueous suspension of clay and minerals) is placed onto a clay body surface by dipping, painting, or splashing. The technique dates from prehistory.

snuff bottles
Small bottles, 2-6 inches (5-15 cm) high, used for holding snuff. Most were produced in China and Mongolia from the 18th century and were made from a variety of materials, including glass, ivory, porcelain, agate, and jade. The bottles are usually round or oval in shape, with a spoon attached to the inside of the stopper and are often richly carved or enamelled.

soda glass
Glass made with soda (sodium carbonate) rather than potash as the flux agent. In its molten state, soda glass is easier to manipulate than potash glass, but in its finished form it is light, fragile, and cannot be cut. Lead crystal superseded soda glass in 17th-century Britain, as it was stronger and more resonant; soda glass continued to be made until the early 19th century on the Continent, and is still used for some Venetian-style glass today.

soft-paste porcelain
Porcelain compounded mostly of white clay mixed with a glassy substance.

Song dynasty
Chinese dynasty, sometimes spelt Sung, of great ceramic development, ad 960-1279, during which time the practice of patronage of ceramics was established. The first Song dynasty wares reached Europe at the end of the 19th century and became a source of inspiration for studio potters in France and Britain.

spelter
A commercial crude smelted zinc, or a solder or other alloy in which zinc is the main constituent.

spinel
Gemstone which occurs in a variety of colours including deep reds, blues and greens. Significant sources of spinels include Burma, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Kenya, Pakistan and Vietnam.

splat
A flat central support between a chair’s seat and the top-rail.

sprigged ware
Ceramics which have ornamental decoration applied to its surface. A sprig mould is used to produce a relief decoration with a flat back in order for it to be scored and slipped (‘sprigged’) for application. Wedgwood jasper ware features sprigged decoration.

Staffordshire pottery
Pottery made in the county of Staffordshire, England, especially within the 'five towns' (in fact six) of Stoke-on-Trent: Burslem, Hanley, Longton, Fenton, Stoke, and Tunstall. Typically provincial in shape, ornamentation, and colouring, the better grades are usually known by the individual names of their makers.

stainless steel
A form of steel containing chromium, resistant to tarnishing and rust, invented in Britain 1913; it became a popular material for cutlery after 1945.

stem cup
A Chinese drinking vessel, usually of porcelain, with a wide shallow bowl and a stem widening at the base, popular in the Ming period; also called gaozu.

sterling
A term used in connection with silverware, indicating that the silver is 92.5 per cent pure.

stoneware
A hybrid of earthenware and porcelain, made of clay and a fusible substance, such as sand or flint. It is very hard, dense, and not porous after firing. One of the three fundamental ceramic bodies, the others being earthenware and porcelain.

stretcher
Any strengthening or stabilizing rail that runs horizontally between furniture legs.

student lamp
A desk lamp of metal, usually brass, having a tubular shaft and either one or two arms. Shades are of opaque glass usually in dark green or white.

studio pottery
Ceramics made or decorated by independent artist-craftsmen.

style restauration
An adaptation of the French empire style, contemporary with the Biedermeier style, from the time of the post-Revolution restoration to the throne of the French monarchy, 1815–30, featuring bright coloured decoration and light-coloured woods.

sucket fork or spoon
A 17th- to 18th century ‘spork’: a combined spoon and fork used mainly to eat succade, a preserved fruit.


T

table clock
An early mainspring-driven clock with a horizontal dial set within a flat-based case of metal or wood. The dial is either on the upper or front surface, sometimes with subsidiary dials on the sides and back. Table clocks were first made in France and Germany in the 16th century.

tabouret
A low stool or small table.

tallboy
A high chest comprising one chest on top of another, with seven or more full-width drawers and a top pair of half-width drawers. The top chest is generally slightly narrower than the lower one.

tantalus
A decorative stand or cellarette in which spirit decanters may be locked up though still visible; fashionable in Britain from the mid-19th century till the Edwardian period.

tapestry
A piece of thick textile fabric with pictures or designs formed by weaving coloured weft threads or by embroidering on canvas, used as a wall hanging or soft furnishing.

tastevin
A small, shallow bowl or cup for wine-tasting, as by a sommelier. The French version has a single ring handle and is often attached to a chain or ribbon worn around the neck. The 17th century British version has two scroll handles.

tea bowl
A small oriental cup without a handle, also made widely in Europe (with a saucer) in the 18th century.

tea caddy
A decorative box created for storing tea leaves, usually with a compartment each for black tea and green tea, popular from the 17th to the 18th century.

teakwood
A strong, tough wood, it ranges in colour from light tawny yellow to dark brown.

temmoku glaze
Black or dark brown glaze found on Chinese 10th-13th century (Song dynasty) stoneware. The ware was also made in Japan for use in the tea ceremony. The glaze, when streaky, is known as a hare's fur glaze.

tempera
A method of painting with pigments dispersed in an emulsion miscible with water, typically egg yolk. The method was used in Europe for fine painting, mainly on wood panels, from the 12th or early 13th century until the 15th, when it began to give way to oils.

terracotta
A low-fired unglazed earthenware, typically brownish read. Terracotta wares in Britain include Doulton, Wedgwood, Minton, and Torquay potteries.

tête-à-tête
An S-shaped sofa on which two people can sit face to face.

tin
A soft, brittle, silvery-white metal usually combined with other metals to make alloys such as bronze and pewter, or to line other metals in a process known as tin-plating to give a rust-resistant finish.

tin glaze
An opaque white glaze containing tin oxide used on faience, delftware, and majolica.

tisanière
See veilleuse.

Toby jug
An 18th or 19th century jug representing a seated Englishman with tricorn hat and mug of ale.

Tokyo School of Art
A school of Japanese artists founded 1887 by Ishikawa Komei, which combined Western art concepts with traditional Japanese craftsmanship.

toleware
Painted, enamelled, or lacquered tin plate used to make decorative domestic objects such as boxes, trays and coffee mills. The tôle peinte ('painted tin') technique originated in France c.1740, but was mass-produced from the 1760s into the 19th century in Birmingham and elsewhere.

tooling
Work or ornamentation done with tools; especially stamped or gilded designs on books or leather.

torchère
A tall ornamental flat-topped stand, traditionally used as a stand for a candlestick.

tortoiseshell
The semi-transparent mottled yellow and brown shell of certain turtles, typically used to make jewellery or ornaments.

transfer printing
A method of printing onto solid objects such as ceramics and glassware, enabling the mass production of designs. Invented in Britain in the mid-18th century, it was not used widely in Continental Europe until the 19th century. In ceramics this can be either over or under the glaze. Designs were initially monochrome, sometimes hand-coloured later. Multicoloured transfer-printing did not become established until the 1840s.

treen
Small domestic wooden objects, especially antiques.

trompe l'oeil
In art, a visual illusion used to trick the eye into perceiving a painted detail as a three-dimensional object.

tyg
A two- or three-handled drinking vessel, also known as a loving cup, of the sort used for passing from guest to guest at the end of a banquet.


U

underglaze
Decoration or mark applied to a ceramic ware underneath a transparent glaze. Design or colours applied, cut or incised into a ceramic body before glazing and firing.

undercut
Ornamental carving cut so deeply that the decoration not only stands out from the body of the material but in parts stands free of it.

underframing
The support structure under, for example, a seat, table top, dresser or other cabinet.

upright
The frame of a chair back in one piece with the rear legs, or more generally any vertical support on furniture.


V

varnish
A transparent, oil- or spirit-based liquid giving a hard, clear surface layer.

veilleuse
A device to keep broth or a drink warm on the bedside table by means of a small oil lamp or candle; also referred to as tisanière.

veneer
A thin decorative covering of fine wood applied to a coarser wood or other material (e.g. tortoiseshell or ivory)’

vesta case
A small portable box made in a great variety of forms to contain vestas (short matches) and keep them dry by means of a snapshut cover; also called vesta boxes or matchsafes. Produced from the second half of the 19th century, typically in silver or other metals.

vinaigrette
A small, gilt-lined metal box designed to hold a sponge soaked in spiced vinegar or aromatic oil, and held in place by a grille. The aroma was inhaled when the hinged lid was raised, to fend off foul smells or to revive swooning ladies. Vinaigrettes became popular and fashionable items from the late 18th century until the end of the 19th century.

violet wood
See rosewood.

vitrine
A display cabinet with glass doors or lid and often glazed sides as well, in which small items of interest such as coins or fossils were kept.

vulcanite
A hard, black material made by heating rubber with sulphur and used to simulate jet in jewellery and for some early fountain pens. It is also known as ebonite.


W

walnut
A close-grained hardwood, light golden-brown to dark greyish-brown in colour with dark streaks and often with a rich grain pattern. Walnut took the place of oak as the most favoured wood for furniture-making c. 1660 until the introduction of mahogany in the 1720s.

wardrobe
Term used from the early 19th century for a large, freestanding cupboard with hanging space for clothes. In the 18th century, clothes were stored in presses.

warming pan
A round, lidded container made of copper or brass, with long wooden, iron or brass handle. The pan held hot coals or charcoal and were used to warm beds. It became popular in the 16th century but was replaced in the 19th century by metal or stoneware hot-water bottles. Most later examples were purely decorative.

washstand
A three or four-legged stand for holding a washbasin, a common item of furniture in the USA and Europe from the 18th century. Larger, heavier models with a marble or tiled top, drawers, and a cupboard for a chamber pot beneath were popular in the 19th century.

watercolour
Water-soluble pigments mixed with a preparation of gum and dissolved in water before being transferred to paper. Watercolour is translucent, whereas gouache is opaque.

Waterford
Irish flint glass was produced at Waterford from 1729; lead crystal supplanted it in 1783. The factory closed in 1851, but a new factory opened in 1951 to produce traditional Waterford styles.

Wedgwood
Any of several ceramic wares made by the English potter Josiah Wedgwood (1730–95) and his successors. Wedgwood is most associated with the powder-blue stoneware pieces with white embossed cameos that first appeared in 1775 (see jasperware). In 1768 Wedgwood partnered with Thomas Bentley to establish the ‘Etruria’ works for making ornamental wares.

Wedgwood Fairyland Lustre
See Fairyland Lustre.

Wellington chest
An early 19th century British chest of drawers with six to twelve shallow drawers for storing coins or other small articles. A hinged flap overlaps the drawers on one side and is fitted with a lock.

whatnot
A lightweight, compact stand with three or more shelves on which to put knick-knacks, books or ornaments. Whatnots appeared towards the end of the 18th century, and continued as drawing-room features throughout the Victorian era. In Victorian times a whatnot was known as an omnium

white gold
An alloy of gold with either platinum or with zinc and nickel. White gold was a popular setting for diamonds in the late 19th century. It is similar in colour to platinum; the two metals can only be distinguished by an acid test.

white metal
A soft, base metal alloy, often abbreviated to ‘WM’, which was used for inexpensive commemorative medals, especially in the 19th century. When preserved ‘as new’, the material looks attractive but it is susceptible to wear and corrosion. 2 Trade term sometimes used to describe silver which is below the sterling standard and cannot by law carry a British hallmark.

Wilkinson, A. J.
The Staffordshire pottery that employed art potter Clarice Cliff and other leading artists; from 1929 the pottery mass-produced Cliff’s designs alone.

William and Mary style
A British decorative arts style linked with the reign of King William III and Queen Mary (1689-1702).

willow
Strong yet soft, white to pinkish, flecked wood. Because of its long fibres, it was used for the dowels in early joined construction. The young shoots have long been used for wickerwork. In the 17th and 18th centuries it was sometimes dyed black to imitate ebony.

willow pattern
A Chinese-influenced pattern, based on a Chinese legend but designed in Britain, which was widely transfer-printed on pottery and porcelain tableware in underglaze blue. It was first engraved by Thomas Minton in Shropshire c.1780 and much imitated, even by the Chinese.

Windsor chair
A wooden dining chair with a semicircular back supported by upright rods set into the solid wooden seat.

wine cooler
A small piece of furniture (often of mahogany) for chilling wine at room temperature. It can appear from the outside to be very similar to a cellarette (q.v.), but it will have a waterproof lining to hold ice and its melt.

wing chair
Upholstered chair with wings extending either from the upper part, or from the whole length of the back in order to protect the occupant’s head from draughts. Wing chairs were first introduced during the latter part of the 17th century.

wood
Identifying the wood used in an object varies from the tricky to the completely impossible, depending on provenance, growing conditions of the original tree, age, staining, patina, weathering, etc. Three excellent resources are:
http://capitalpolishers.com/wood-names-search/
http://www.wood-database.com/wood-articles/wood-identification-guide/
http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/research/centres/woodanatomy/wood_idfactsheet.php

woodcut
A print formed from a design carved in relief on the plank surface of a woodblock. The background is cut away leaving the design raised, and it is this which receives the ink. The inked design prints and the background remains free of ink. In a wood engraving, the design is cut into the end grain surface so that the background is in relief and takes the ink, and the engraved design shows white on the finished print.

wreathing
Spiral ridges of slightly increased thickness on the inside of some hollow-ware, shaped, on the wheel, by the potter’s fingers.

wrigglework
A zigzag pattern used on British pewter and silverware in the 17th and 18th centuries, achieved by pushing an engraving tool at an angle over the surface while rocking or turning the object.

wrythening
Spiral or diagonal ridges, fluting or reeding especially fashionable on 17th-19th century glass.

wucai
Wucai meaning five enamels or "five-colour ware" is in reality mostly three enamels (green, red, and yellow) within outlines in blackish dry cobalt, underglaze blue, plus the white of the porcelain body, to make up five colours.


X

xieyi
In Chinese art, a freely and quickly sketched painting with little detail but great expression; the opposite of gongbi


Y

yao
Chinese word for ‘ware’.

yew
Although a softwood, the timber of this native British species is very dense and strong. The wood is golden-brown in tone, close-grained and polishes to a fine finish; and as the trunks tend to twist, the wood is often beautifully figured.

yingqing
One of the earliest Chinese porcelain wares, dating from the Song dynasty. The term refers to the translucent blue glaze, formerly known as qingbai. The genuine wares that survive today (mainly bowls) were excavated from burial grounds. Many forgeries and reproductions have been produced. See also ding ware.

yixing
A type of clay found in the Yixing region in China, famous for its use in red stoneware (particularly teapots); its use dates back to the Song dynasty, with wares being exported to Europe during the 17th century.


Z

zebrawood
A decorative, reddish-brown wood barred with dark stripes, also known as tiger wood. It is a hard, heavy, Brazilian timber, most commonly seen in banding and inlaid decoration. In the late 18th century and throughout the 19th century, zebrawood was sometimes used as a veneer for complete surfaces of bureaux, desks and tables.

zinc
A bluish-white metallic element used to form various alloys such as brass, bronze, and nickel silver. See also spelter.

zircon
Gemstone which ranges in colour through yellow, red and orange to green. Colourless, golden-brown and sky-blue versions are produced by heat treatment. Most of the mineral suitable for gemstones comes from the Far East and Sri Lanka. Colourless zircons are sometimes used as substitutes for diamonds, but are neither as hard nor as brilliant.

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